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Sunday, May 13, 2018
DAD’S GREEK CHORUS
“The chosen spot of all the earth as far as nature is concerned…”
- Luther Burbank
Famed botanist Luther Burbank reportedly said this about his adopted home, his beloved Sonoma County. And I suppose he was right. For him.
My “chosen spot of all the earth” is close by, geographically, but different. In a thick catalog of fond childhood memories, it is a place may well hold the fondest.
I reflect on this at the confluence of two events:
1. Six months ago, Mom passed. With Dad already on the other side – he had waited 22 years for this – I now represent the oldest generation and I know what’s inevitably gonna happen. (Not soon, I hope.)
2. In the current process of rewriting our living trust, the question is raised, “Where do you want to spend eternity?”
Yesterday, we revisited the chosen spot. After all, somebody’s gotta know how to get there.
From a ridgetop deep in the remote California Coastal Range one can see Mt Lassen some 110 miles to the northeast. Turning west, the bank of coastal fog that blankets the Pacific is no more than thirty-five miles off. In between both Lassen and the coast lie row upon row, ridge upon ridge of seeming unsullied forests and meadows, forgotten place names and forgotten history.
A quarter-mile down the slope stands a cluster of ancient firs, headquarters for a century-and-a-half ago summer sheep camp.
As a family, we’d visit annually with the last of those who’d actually run sheep up that way. Woods would be explored. Rusted relics found. Meadows would be traipsed. More relics. Springwater consumed. Hide-n-seek played. Sticks gathered for the evening fire. Outdoor cooking. Outdoor everything.
After chow, we would walk to the top of the ridge and watch the sun descend, turning the Pacific sky all ranges of oranges and purples and, finally, midnight blue. In the dark, we’d stumble down the hill to a campfire that would last well past dusk and to stories told by the old sheepherder that would animate ensuing dreams under a starlit sky and last through until today: Stories of mountain lions and Ford Model As, Friday shindigs at neighboring camps and Sunday stillness shepherding lambs across the glade.
Campfire tales. Yesterday, they returned.
Atop that ridge stands a copse of gnarled oaks – “looks to me like a Greek Chorus,” Dad said five decades ago – oaks that had and still have a forever view of Mount Lassen, the Pacific fog, and that favored camp just down the hill. (I never figured out what Dad meant by a Greek Chorus – always swore I’d look the term up, but never have. Probably never will – don’t want to spoil the image I have.)
The chorus is at rest. Silent. The only sounds are the soughing forest, the murmur of a brook and the occasional report from a red tail or a grouse.
In the merry-go-round of a mind entering, perhaps, the final third or quarter – not exactly the home stretch, yet – this is where the finish line will be: intermingled with Dad’s so-called “Greek Chorus,” overlooking the chosen spot of all the earth as far as eternity is concerned.
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